Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The first shall be last....

... and the last shall be..... even more last.

The one thing worse than being booked on the first flight from Beijing to Europe to get cancelled because of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption last week is, arguably, being booked on what might - or might not - be the first flight from Beijing to Europe after the resumption of quasi-normal international air travel yesterday.

I've had two old college buddies around over the past week or so (not to mention two old China friends making whistlestop trips back to Beijing.... and The British Cowboy was making vague noises about passing through the country, but had to reschedule). It was starting to look as though they might have been around for much, much longer.

Dr W and his young son, after the cancellation of their flight last Thursday, were looking at not being able to get any spare seats on a plane back until early May. He decided to take a Polar hop to NYC instead, and take his chances trying to get home from there.

Richard P and his family were placed in an even more anxious state of uncertainty. They were supposed to be on an early flight out this morning, but the airline was unable to confirm the status of this service throughout most of yesterday. If it had been cancelled, they would have been stuck at the back of a 5-day backlog of stranded passengers and would perhaps not have been able to get home until the middle of May.

Fortunately, their flight did leave on schedule. I discovered on the website late last night that the flight was finally being listed as 'scheduled' (the airline having had the foresight to move their first flight from Europe to Beijing yesterday to earlier in the day, to make sure that they would have a plane here in time to fill that schedule; things unravelled last week in such a way that Beijing was largely emptied out of long-haul planes belonging to the European carriers, so it's taking a further day or two to get schedules from here to Europe back on track), although that was too late in the day to give my friends a little peace of mind before they'd turned in for the night.

I'm relieved for them, but a bit disappointed for myself: they were only passing through Beijing en route to and from Mrs P's parents' place down in Hubei, so I didn't actually get to see them on this trip. I had my fingers half-crossed that their flight would not happen.

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